John's 2nd Attempt At Pontification

webuiltthiscity:

Above: A Google bus taking about 30 seconds to turn left, through a red light, from Valencia onto 24th Street, at rush hour.

It’s taken me a long time to crystallize my thoughts on the tech buses, but watching this spectacle this morning really brought it together for me.

First of all, let me say that focusing gentrification outrage on people taking a bus is misguided at best. I won’t go down that rathole of an argument, as there are plenty of thoughtful pieces of writing and debate out there about it already, by people who are smarter than I am.

But this bus SHOULD NOT BE ON THIS STREET. These double-decker behemoths are too huge and too slow for streets like Valencia and 24th. They can’t even turn left without blithely running red lights long after they’ve turned yellow. They slow down city busses. They’re so wide that even bikes can’t go around them safely. Charging $1 per stop does nothing to address this problem.

The Genentech bus that detours off the freeway to pick up passengers in the large Glen Park BART loading zone: FINE. The Apple shuttle that picks up workers at Daly City BART after they’ve taken transit out of the City: FINE. This bus turning left from one very narrow street onto another: NOT FINE.

I encourage the Supervisors to focus on channeling these busses onto approved corridors: Say, all the way down Van Ness to Potrero, then onto the freeway. Heavily fine those that stray. People can take public transit to get to central pickup points, helping to fund our transit infrastructure.

We can’t stop growth (nor should we), but we DO need to channel its impacts in an intelligent way, and I think a change like this would help.

Good point.  I know it’s fashionable (in some quarters) to make fun of the Marina but Google and Genentech buses habitually ignore - especially in the evenings - the clearly posted signs which ban buses north of Lombard Street as they turn around on small streets.

Posted at 10:18am.

webuiltthiscity:

Above: A Google bus taking about 30 seconds to turn left, through a red light, from Valencia onto 24th Street, at rush hour.
It’s taken me a long time to crystallize my thoughts on the tech buses, but watching this spectacle this morning really brought it together for me.
First of all, let me say that focusing gentrification outrage on people taking a bus is misguided at best. I won’t go down that rathole of an argument, as there are plenty of thoughtful pieces of writing and debate out there about it already, by people who are smarter than I am.
But this bus SHOULD NOT BE ON THIS STREET. These double-decker behemoths are too huge and too slow for streets like Valencia and 24th. They can’t even turn left without blithely running red lights long after they’ve turned yellow. They slow down city busses. They’re so wide that even bikes can’t go around them safely. Charging $1 per stop does nothing to address this problem.
The Genentech bus that detours off the freeway to pick up passengers in the large Glen Park BART loading zone: FINE. The Apple shuttle that picks up workers at Daly City BART after they’ve taken transit out of the City: FINE. This bus turning left from one very narrow street onto another: NOT FINE.
I encourage the Supervisors to focus on channeling these busses onto approved corridors: Say, all the way down Van Ness to Potrero, then onto the freeway. Heavily fine those that stray. People can take public transit to get to central pickup points, helping to fund our transit infrastructure.
We can’t stop growth (nor should we), but we DO need to channel its impacts in an intelligent way, and I think a change like this would help.

Good point.  I know it’s fashionable (in some quarters) to make fun of the Marina but Google and Genentech buses habitually ignore - especially in the evenings - the clearly posted signs which ban buses north of Lombard Street as they turn around on small streets.

I give Pando Daily credit for delving into the court records in the Silicon Valley non-solicitation litigation which has been ongoing in the Northern District for a couple of years.   I’d like to think that the Chronicle of 20 or 30 years ago would be all over this sort of case.  Especially because Pando’s reporting argues that this litigation represents a wage fixing cartel which has affected hundreds of thousands of Bay Area (and beyond) employees.   That’s a lot of papers to be sold.  At first, I found “wage cartel” references a bit off-putting because I didn’t think that it accurately portrayed the intent of the agreements.  I didn’t think the intent of the agreements was to keep wages down, it was to preserve access to in-house talent.  But, at the end of the day, preserving talent in that way means you can save lots of money.  If your employees aren’t being recruited by your competitors, you don’t have to offer them as much money to stay.  So, at the end of the day, wage cartel is pretty accurate.

What’s remarkable is the certitude which comes through in emails of Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, and Meg Whitman as they complain about the free market for employees working.  They’re offended by the notion and take evidence of the market trying to work almost as a personal affront.

But, here’s the rub.  This conspiracy is over.  The agreement among these employers has been exposed.  Many employers have already settled with the U.S. Department of Justice and the private litigants.  Those who remain in the private action are fighting but something tells me (as someone who has worked in this area for a long, long time) that the true fight is over limiting damages, not over liability.  Which isn’t to say that the remaining defendants have admitted they are wrong, they are simply making arguments to best position an (inevitable) settlement.

On the other hand, the ageism trend noted by the New Republic?  There is no lawsuit by the USA on the topic (here it would be the EEOC, not the DOJ).  Indeed, as the article points out, the topic is still discussed openly.  With the same sort of certainty that Jobs, et. al. used when discussing the labor markets.  It’s just assumed.  We should have the right to practice our own form of anecdotal social science to discriminate against people over the age of 40.  This even though the discrimination against people based on age is as unlawful as wage fixing.  Indeed, the prohibitions against age discrimination are, in my view, far more clear and unambiguous than the ones at issue in the Silicon Valley recruiting cases.

Here’s hoping someone picks up Pando’s example and runs with reporting on these trends as they play out.

Posted at 5:55pm.

Blame Chuck Grassley.  The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the “D.C. Circuit”) is short three judges from the allotment - set by federal law - of eleven full time judges.  It’s an important court.  Many appeals of administrative actions of the federal government are heard by the D.C. Circuit.  Today, the active court is split 4-4 between nominees of Republican and Democratic Presidents.  There are six Senior Judges who work part-time.  With the existing vacancies, that means that they work a lot.  Five of those six Senior Judges were Republican nominees.  Republicans fear that, should the three active vacancies be filled, the Court will actually better fit the framework imposed by the Constitution and the judicial enabling acts .  Put simply, because the President fills all vacancies among the federal judges, the President is supposed to a lot of influence upon the makeup of the federal bench.

Chuck Grassley and other Republicans want the D.C. Circuit’s vacancies eliminated, not filled.  Chuck Grassley knows that such an action can only be accomplished by amending federal law.  Such a bill would never pass the Senate and would be vetoed by the President.  So, instead, he’s led the movement to filibuster any new nominees to the Court, no matter how well qualified.  Which would leave the DC Circuit disproportionately old and disproportionately conservative.  A President who has already been President for six years would be allowed to make one nomination to the nation’s second most powerful court, while George W. Bush would have been allowed to make three such nominations, his father two, President Reagan, four.  You get the idea. 

When the Republicans ran out of fig leaves to claim lack of qualifications, they - like FDR when he tried to do the reverse and create more vacancies - tried to change the rules by use of the filibuster to effectively delete them (although Grassley’s method had the virtue of leaving the vacancies conveniently available for a Republican President to fill).  As FDR did, Chuck Grassley got his comeuppance.  For years, both parties have been trying to see how far they could push the other with filibuster abuse.  The pendulum is now swinging back.  And I agree that Republicans, once in the majority again, may seek to push the pendulum back further.  But, given that the Constitution says nothing about the filibuster - such an effort - as with what happened today - is always subject to the reaction of the electorate.  Which is probably about what the Founders intended.

Posted at 5:30pm and tagged with: one column,.

Remember - the two sides agree on how much money to spend.  The GOP is asking to go to conference about repealing, defunding, or delaying Obamacare.    And, remember, going to conference on this just means going to conference in a couple of months where the demands will be more numerous.  If the Democrats want to keep their lunch money, they will hold fast.  And, right now, there’s no one to negotiate with.  John Boehner can’t regularly carry the House if he has the burden of needing 95% of his caucus for every big vote.

The early word is that another alternative would be for the House to pass limited CRs for the parts of government they prefer stay funded.  This seems like a pretty tough sell to me at first glance because of what, by definition, they would leave out.  If they, for instance, fund parks over food stamps or cancer research, that strikes me as a pretty easy parry for Harry Reid to make.  I guess we will have to wait and see.

The shutdown is going to be harmful, but a debt ceiling impasse has the potential to be economically catastrophic.  If the shutdown leads to a solution for the debt ceiling, it’s hard to see how it will not be worth it.

Posted at 12:00pm and tagged with: one column,.

First, Syria.  I’ve been saying this ever since the President’s speech last week.  You don’t preface a decision to send a use of force resolution to Congress with discussion about being the world’s oldest constitutional democracy if you intend to ignore that democracy’s legislature when it doesn’t give you the approval you are seeking.  

If the President did that, it would be a political disaster.  His entire fall agenda for Congress - a substantial agenda - would be at risk: government shutdown, potential default, cuts to entitlement programs.  Calls for Democrats to repudiate the President in order to save their seats in Congress in 2014.  If the President wanted to preserve his right to act unilaterally, he should have acted unilaterally.  Acting after Congress turns you down isn’t acting unilaterally, it’s acting in direct defiance of Congress.  That would be an impeachable offense in the minds of many Republicans.  The last time a President did that on a significant matter was President Reagan and Iran-Contra (sending funds to the Contras in direct contravention of the Boland Amendment).

So, with all that said - what’s the President doing to try and get his authority?  With respect, continuing to allow his advisors to comment upon his ability to move unilaterally after a “no” vote isn’t helping.  I RT’d an article by Olivier Knox earlier today which I’m hoping represents a trend change; comments by advisors saying that the President had no plans to act in defiance of Congress.  Notably, I think he needs to do more of this to have any chance to win a House vote.  Republicans may vote “NO” just to see if the President is reckless enough to defy them.   The only thing to stop this is to clearly signal - if we don’t get a “YES” vote, we’re not doing this, and it’s on you.  Some Democrats may also cast a “NO” vote just because it helps them in the district and, heck, the President’s said he really doesn’t need my vote anyway.  Feel free to say that going forward, the President reserves the right to act if conditions change or in other situations.  But, all things being equal, if the President wants a shot to win the House, he needs to make it clear that he’s not giving anyone hope of a free vote.   

Second, the Fed Chair.  According to the Wall Street Journal, there are indications that at least three Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee would not vote to send a potential Larry Summers nomination as Chairman of the Federal Reserve to the Senate floor.   If this is well-founded, it’s a break-the-glass moment for the President.  Sure, it’s possible that a Republican or two could give the President a vote just to make more trouble or (gasp) in deference to the President but I doubt it.  Given a chance to kill any nominee to the Fed, I think Senate Republicans have to take it.  Sure, they don’t know the next devil to come through the doors….OK I just looked at the GOP members of Senate finance.  I don’t see one “yes” vote for Summers in that group.

My reaction?  Good for them.   I give the President credit for often seeking the middle ground between his position and the GOP.  But, sometimes you also need to seek out consensus in your own party.  As others have commented before me, if you are the President and you think that the Administration did a bang-up job in managing the crash of ‘08 which was handed to it, then folks associated with that team are logically going to come up again in your job searches.  Thus Geithner is mentioned as a Fed candidate.  When he declines, Summers is mentioned.   That, in my view, is a cr*ppy criteria.  ”Because he was with me in one foxhole, I’m sticking with him. ”  Why?  Simply because the jury is still out on whether the President’s job in 2008-2010 was a job well done.  If we are grading pass/fail?  It’s a pass.  We didn’t slide into a depression.  Did we do enough stimulus?  There’s a lot of evidence that we did not.  

Plus, prior to the “foxhole” of 2009-10, it bears mentioning that Summers was dead wrong on the signature issue which could have changed the history leading up to the crisis - regulation of derivatives.  Sure, Alan Greenspan was wrong as well but we’re down on Greenspan as a result, right?  Indeed, it’s fair to ask - what decision of Greenspan’s tenure would Summers have made differently?  It’s also fair to ask where Larry Summers stands on the “employment” half of the Fed’s mandate.  And Senators telegraphing opposition are a sure way to get some of these questions answered.

I’m still not sure I’m opposed to Larry Summers’ candidacy.   There are a lot of potential candidates who don’t have his warts.  But, if the President insists on sending his name up there, I guarantee I’ll be watching the hearings.

Posted at 6:00pm and tagged with: two column,.

Senator Rubio is as good as the Senate (or House for that matter) GOP gets these days.  And he is smarting after being called out by the right wing of the GOP on fronting the Gang of Eight immigration bill in the Senate.  So, he took 10 minutes of Senate time today to announce his new bright idea for helping the middle class. Shutting down the government until the President signed a continuing resolution (not even a budget LOL) repealing Obamacare.

Let’s get the substance of the argument in his address.  Senator Rubio went and talked to his constituents in Florida who run small businesses and asked about their concerns about Obamacare.  Fair enough - never a bad idea to speak to some small business owners about what’s going on out there in the real world.

Senator Rubio says he spoke to the owner of “Gatorland” - a theme park - he has 100 full time employees who work for him.  He provides them health care coverage (with employees sharing premium costs).  Coverage with which employees are happy.  They have doctors with whom they are comfortable.  There is a problem.  Health care premiums are going up.  They don’t know how much yet. [Back to that in a second.]

So Gatorland’s options are:

(1) Change insurance which costs less.  Fully agree - that may be a bad option from many employees’ point of view.

(2) Reduce a bunch of people under 30 hours and kick them off of Gatorland health care.   Also not a great option.

(3) Or Gatorland can kick everyone off and pay a fine.  Employees go get health care from state exchanges.  As this could disrupt employees’ relationship with doctors, also not a great option.

A few thoughts.  Love how “(4) Gatorland could absorb the increased premium costs - as they have (presumably) done for years” isn’t even DISCUSSED as an option.  Not saying that should be the option chosen but funny how it’s not even mentioned as an option.  This even though this is what I’d guess 90-95% of employers were doing nationwide prior to Obamacare.  And what many will continue to do.  Not mentioned - in those states where premiums go down - will Rubio push employers to pass savings onto employees?  I wonder.  Remember - a lot of employers favored Obamacare because it would reduce the incidence of these types of choices - more on that in a sec.

Rubio notes Florida doesn’t have exchanges yet.  That, by the way, isn’t the federal government’s fault - it’s Florida’s.  Last I checked, Florida had a GOP governor.  Maybe Rubio should give him a polite shove in the right direction?

But, the more basic issue here is what’s left out of any analysis by Senator Rubio - is how big will these not-yet-announced-cost increases be?  According to the Florida Sun-Sentinel, Florida average premium costs climbed 58% over the 8 years leading up to Obamacare’s passage.  So, there was a clear trend of premium increases in Florida with no regulation at all.  Premiums are dropping - that’s dropping - in California, New York, and Oregon.  So, the point I’m making is not a small one.  Rubio may be right, but he may be wrong.  Or the increases could be far less than the pre-Obamacare trend.  Put simply, Rubio’s whole thesis - that Obamacare is making things worse is, at best, unproven and may very well be false if California and New York are any indication.

Yet, based solely on predicted increases (which may be completely bullsh*t), Senator Rubio proposes as a solution to shut down the federal government until President Obama capitulates to repeal by signing a continuing resolution to fund the budget.  I put LOL above because Senator Rubio won’t even offer a year’s budget agreement for such a collapse by the President.  He’d offer a continuing resolution.  Because if the President signed one CR repealing Obamacare, why not offer up another CR with the elimination of Social Security in Janauary?  

Here’s a news flash for the not-deluded.  The President has staked his legacy on Obamacare.  He was reelected after passing Obamacare.  He will never, repeat never, sign a bill repealing it.  If he did, DEMOCRATS would impeach him.   Seriously, I’d be ticked if a high school student council did this sort of policy and political analysis.  It’s kindergarten level political logic.

What’s just dishonest (as opposed to uninformed) is that Senator Rubio claims that it’s DEMOCRATS who don’t want to fix any issues with Obamacare - and that “it’s full speed ahead.”   This is sophistry.  Democrats would be happy to fix it.  It’s Republicans who want to completely trash it.  That’s “fixing it” to the Rubio-led GOP.

This is how desperate Marco Rubio is to reclaim street cred with the GOP.  He’s willing to pose a strategy that would even make John Boehner laugh and say “buddy, there’s no way that’s happening.”   Somebody wants to be President.  And he is not afraid to suggest pie-in-the-sky public policy to get there.

It’s one thing to support ideas one knows will never become law.  I would have never argued that supporting a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution or a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution are so unlikely so as to be disqualifying someone as out of the political mainstream.  That would be ridiculous.  I’m pretty sure President Bush supported both.  They are unlikely to become law, sure, but they are standalone policies worthy of consideration (and in my view - polite rejection).  What I would argue is destructive is taking a pie-in-the-sky policy and tying it to something which NEEDS to become law.  Such as the budget.  The GOP first faced media and then public backlash in 2011 when back-benchers argued that the debt ceiling extension needed to be tied to the passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  This is comparable.  I think Mitt Romney bought onto this logic to win the GOP primary.  I think losing for so long and so badly prior to the first debate in late September almost enabled him to skip serious policy scrutiny of this position and still get elected.  Rubio won’t be so lucky.  He is also hurt by the lack of any tie between the government shutdown and Obamacare - none.  Rubio spent 10 minutes making his case - watch above - I was certainly unconvinced.  That’s not to say that repealing Obamacare isn’t a legitimate public policy position - it is.  It just has nothing to do with shutting down the government.   At least one fellow Republican Senator (McCain) is already saying this openly.  And where McCain goes, others will follow.

Oddly, the last thing Senator Rubio wants is an actual shutdown (let alone a debt ceiling impasse which could cause even greater economic chaos) based upon this position.   Because it will never, never succeed.

Posted at 7:00pm.

congressarchives:

In honor of Independence Day, we’re sharing the story of Congress and Uncle Sam. 

In response to the Cold War era anxiety over “disciplined communism,” Congress wanted to make “the symbol of ‘Uncle Sam’ official and permanent.” Acting in accordance with this desire, the Senate issued a report in 1961 chronicling the history of Uncle Sam. The report states that Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York, the model for Uncle Sam, was born in 1766. He enlisted in the Revolutionary Army at the age of 14, became a bricklayer, and later opened a slaughterhouse where he inspected beef for the Army during the War of 1812. Meat that was inspected by Wilson was stamped “EA-US.” His staff joked that the US stamp stood for Uncle Sam, Wilson’s nickname, instead of United States. Over time Uncle Sam became synonymous with the United States.

However certain the Senate was with their findings, the House of Representatives became concerned that there was another Samuel Wilson and that their identities had become crossed. This concurrent resolution, S. Con. Res. 14, was passed by the House on September 6, 1961 with a series of amendments that struck out Wilson’s birth and burial places. After a bit of back and forth, the final version of the resolution as passed by both the House and Senate states that Samuel Wilson, of Troy, New York, was indeed the progenitor of the national persona of Uncle Sam.

"Day We Celebrate" by Clifford Berryman, 7/4/1903, U.S. Senate Collection (6010432)

S Con Res 14, 9/6/1961, Records of the U.S. House of Representative

Posted at 9:31am.

Look, there are lies to Congress and there are LIES to CONGRESS.  Director of National Intelligence’s James Clapper’s most recent one is deserving of scorn.

When asked - a day in advance of his testimony - the following question by Senator Ron Wyden - this is what happened on hearing day:

SENATOR WYDEN: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

DNI CLAPPER: No sir … not wittingly.

As we now know, this was not true.   The NSA collects and stores data about - if recent stories are believed - practically all Americans who use cell phones or the internet. When called on this statement on NBC, Clapper basically alleged that this was a “when did you stop beating your wife” question.  Which is ludicrous.    That particular formula describes a question so leading that answering the question likely communicates a different impression than the respondent would like.  Here, the answer does not leave the respondent with any such lingering misimpressions.  Clapper clearly preferred to not answer the question truthfully, and so he lied, with the hope that Senator Wyden wouldn’t be able to figure out a way to expose the lie without (a) violating classification rules, and (b) embarrassing the Administration of his own party.  (I think (b) to be an iffy assumption).

What bothers me most about this is that the Administration claims to both want the debate over these measures as well as change (if not end) the war footing attitude that continues to breathe life into them.   Yet, the Administration’s DNI, by lying, directly inhibited (albeit briefly) any such debate.

I agree with Kaplan.  If the debate is important and a competent replacement can be found, ending Clapper’s tenure is the way to show that things really have changed and that an honest debate about these practices is welcomed.

Posted at 10:00am.

I’m having some difficulty sorting through all of the allegations surrounding this most recent NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Before proceeding to the merits, I do have some thoughts on the chances he will be asked to return to the United States to face justice. Hong Kong is part of China. It’s complicated for sure, it has a free press, a freer economy, etc… But, it is still part of China. And it has an extradition treaty with the United States. At bottom, I can see no reason why - should the foreign policy apparatus within the Chinese government have influence over the decision - the government would not want to rapidly extradite Snowden back to face U.S. justice. Simply from a transactional standpoint - isn’t there a far higher chance of Chinese citizens fleeing to the U.S. to seek asylum than the other way around? Wouldn’t China want to accede to U.S. wishes to be more confident about obtaining the return of its whistleblowers when the time comes? It may be more complex than this, I will grant you. In the U.S., asylum is granted by the executive - under a statutory scheme which provides for broad discretion - and is reviewable by the Courts under that standard (i.e. deferring to the underlying decision except in certain cases of error). Josh Marshall presented a reader email along these same lines this morning.

I would recommend several blog entries in the New Yorker by Jeffrey Toobin (taking the view that Snowden should be subject to justice in the US), Evan Osnos (taking the view that China will likely want to return Snowden for the reciprocity reasons I outline above) and John Cassidy (Snowden is a hero) for some much-appreciated context and opinion.

On the merits, there are two types of programs which have been reported. One is the archiving of US citizens phone records (along with geolocation data) and the other is archiving - for all practical purposes - Americans’ email and IM chats. For a better explanation of all of this, check out the Will Saletan piece I tweeted about earlier today. For the internet stuff, a warrant is needed if a search of the email involves messages between American citizens. Not so, if email or chatting goes on outside of the U.S.. As to the controversy which has arisen, I tend to blame Congress for two reasons.

One, I believe the Administration when they say that Congress has been briefed - or offered briefings - on these issues. But, I’m a cynic here, Representatives and Senators think that avoiding the briefings provides them with deniability. To remix a few quotes from Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” - they can’t handle the truth but they want him on that wall anyway. They fail to realize that the briefings are also about us, not just them. The more people briefed, the more of an intelligent debate we will have on bills such as Patriot Act re authorization or on amendments to FISA.

Two, on MSNBC this morning, Glenn Greenwald mentioned that Sens Udall and Wyden had been protesting the scope of this surveillance for months, if not years. Greenwald’s point was that, if one reads between the lines, they are limited in what they can say in protest without becoming leakers themselves. Which may or not be true. But, if it is true, this is again Congress’ own fault. Congress just reauthorized the laws which permit this activity. If it did so while being so uninformed, shame on them. Congress also has the ability to specifically limit how much discretion these agencies have. Doing so, however, was and is politically perilous within the mainstream of both the Republican and Democratic parties (moreso in the GOP but Senator Feinstein and the President both seem awfully supportive of the current powers held by the NSA). The most obvious fix?

It may be to cut both the President and Congress out of the loop as interested parties. Greenwald alluded to the idea that the Administration has been heading off legal challenges to these programs by arguing that no one has standing to sue. Because no American can, given the classification involved, verify that he or she is either having their data archived or being eavesdropped upon, both the Bush and Obama Administrations have been succeeding in having lawsuits dismissed on the constitutionality of the programs for lack of standing. We have some vague notion that mistakes and overreach have already occurred but Senators have said they can say no more than that. Perhaps there will be pressure put upon the Administration to allow sufficient declassification so as to allow the federal courts to weigh in on the expansive interpretations which Sens. Wyden and Udall have been talking about. (See here.)

One thing I don’t need to hear about? Public polling on the issue. Constitutional rights - and protections which derive from them - rarely poll well.

Posted at 7:00pm.

e4rleb1rd:

physicsphysics:

An interesting model of our solar system’s path as it travels through space in the Milky Way.

Certainly a departure from usual models that show the Sun as a static object, which it certainly isn’t

Posted at 11:37am.

e4rleb1rd:

physicsphysics:
An interesting model of our solar system’s path as it travels through space in the Milky Way.
Certainly a departure from usual models that show the Sun as a static object, which it certainly isn’t